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The decor at Da Gui has a clear message: order the sour fish soup! Once you locate the restaurant (behind an unassuming hutong door and ramshackle corridor) you’ll see a bright painting of the tomato-red soup shining in the white, old-fashioned dining room. The opposite wall has another, equally large mural explaining how the famous Guizhou dish is made.
We didn’t order it today because of its cost (the cheapest fish was 116 RMB). Diners around us took note: “Foreigners don’t like suantangyu,” they commented. Far from it – it’s simply that Da Gui has plenty of other delicious dishes, pairing Guizhou cuisine’s distinctive sour tastes with sweet and savoury ingredients.
For example, their cucumber and Asian pear salad (雪梨黄瓜) is a revelation to people, like me, that have only eaten cucumber with vinaigrette. Here, it’s treated like a fruit, paired with crunchy Asian pear and tossed in an orange juice dressing. The textures of cucumber and Asian pear are very similar, and the parallel was enhanced by their being cut in exactly the same shape. Cucumber’s mild grassy flavour contrasted pleasantly with the orange dressing.
Sweet and savoury flavours are paired again, maybe even more brilliantly, in Da Gui’s sweet dumplings (汤圆) with Guizhou preserved vegetables (腌菜). The toasty, black-sesame filled dumplings would be good on their own, but paired with the pungent, salty greens, the dish becomes addictive. The taste is analogous to salty chocolate, but the combination of soft vegetable and crisp dumpling create a great mouthfeel too.
I’m sure the suantangyu is delicious, but it will have to wait for the day that we’re tired of these fascinating dishes.
69 Daxing Hutong, off Jiaodaokou Nan Dajie
Open 10 am – 2 pm, 5pm.-10pm